• Barbara Gaughen-Muller

What is the good life?

Originally published by the Santa Barbara News-Press on April 12, 2020.


Recently I found this poem on my Facebook site. It is said to have been written in 1869 and reprinted during the 1919 pandemic.


And people stayed at home

And read books

And listened

And they rested

And did exercises

And made art and played

And learned new ways of being

And stopped and listened

More deeply

Someone meditates, someone prayed

Someone met their shadow

And people began to think differently

And people healed

And in the absence of people who

Lived in ignorant ways

Dangerous, meaningless and heartless,

The earth also began to heal

And when the danger ended and

People found themselves

They grieved for the dead

And made new choices

And dreamed of new visions

And created new ways of living

And completely healed the earth

Just as they were healed.


I emailed it to friends. One added another line to the poem: "And then came the roaring 20s and the stock market crash!"

That comment stopped me in my tracks. The poem supposedly came after the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1919. Are we headed down that path again? Are we going back to "the good life" —consumption and consuming— followed by another financial collapse?


What is the good life? This poem seems to be the answer to my question. "They made new choices...and created new ways of living." Just like right here in Santa Barbara with "Zoomers and Boomer." Daniel Goldberg enrolled teenagers to shop for and deliver groceries to seniors isolated at home. Now cities are contacting him asking how they can join.

I think solutions are within all of us. The creative solutions that people are coming up with during the pandemic are a beacon for the future. We need to work out ways to do things better and more in harmony with our real needs while healing our Earth for future generations. A good reminder was in the April 8, Santa Barbara News-Press Thought for Today: "Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children."Sitting Bull.


Another thing we are learning is that perhaps our economy can work better if we don't try to find happiness in "bigger and better" consumption. We are forced to live simply now. Why can't we continue to do that in the future, so that no American will be hungry and without a place to live.


I'm wondering what ideas other people in Santa Barbara have —big or little. Send them to the paper. Let's redefine what we mean by "Live the Good Life."


Barbara Gaughen-Muller

President of the Santa Barbara & Tri-Counties United Nations Association, USA


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